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Adv Nutr. 2013 May 1;4(3):287-93. doi: 10.3945/an.112.003624.

Impaired calcium entry into cells is associated with pathological signs of zinc deficiency.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA.


Zinc is an essential trace element whose deficiency gives rise to specific pathological signs. These signs occur because an essential metabolic function is impaired as the result of failure to form or maintain a specific metal-ion protein complex. Although zinc is a component of many essential metalloenzymes and transcription factors, few of these have been identified with a specific sign of incipient zinc deficiency. Zinc also functions as a structural component of other essential proteins. Recent research with Swiss murine fibroblasts, 3T3 cells, has shown that zinc deficiency impairs calcium entry into cells, a process essential for many cell functions, including proliferation, maturation, contraction, and immunity. Impairment of calcium entry and the subsequent failure of cell proliferation could explain the growth failure associated with zinc deficiency. Defective calcium uptake is associated with impaired nerve transmission and pathology of the peripheral nervous system, as well as the failure of platelet aggregation and the bleeding tendency of zinc deficiency. There is a strong analogy between the pathology of genetic diseases that result in impaired calcium entry and other signs of zinc deficiency, such as decreased and cyclic food intake, taste abnormalities, abnormal water balance, skin lesions, impaired reproduction, depressed immunity, and teratogenesis. This analogy suggests that failure of calcium entry is involved in these signs of zinc deficiency as well.

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